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The Darwin Tales

By Terrell Clemmons

Stephen Meyer was a young geophysicist working in the oil industry in Dallas, Texas, in 1985 when he saw that an interesting science conference was coming to town and he decided to drop in. During a panel discussion on the origin of the first living things, Charles Thaxton, a highly credentialed chemist, noted that the information stored in DNA could not be explained by chemical evolutionary processes. This was generally known already and uncontroversial. But Thaxton ventured a step further by suggesting that the information could point to an intelligent cause. This was a reasonable inference, Thaxton said because, in our regular human experience, we know that information is typically attributable to intelligent causes.

This struck Meyer as both intuitive and plausible. But what really piqued his interest was the heated reaction of some of the other scientists at this suggestion. They got really personal. Some criticized Thaxton’s intellect; others, his motives, as if he’d broken some unwritten convention. What was with all this emotion? Meyer wondered. He’d always thought scientists were objective professionals who coolly looked at data and followed the evidence. This was an interesting problem.

The encounter led to some follow-up discussions with Thaxton and a burning new question, which Meyer would take with him to Cambridge University a year later: Could this idea of intelligence—or intelligent design—be made into a rigorous scientific argument?

But during his first year there, an after-lecture social gathering brought home a sobering reality…

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